Friday, March 30, 2012

Diabetes Opinion Leaders Paid by Roche to Curate Content on New Twitter-based Social Media Site

Diabetes Nest, according to its "About" statement, "is a Twitter-based diabetes network designed to help people discover the best conversations from the most meaningful voices. The Nest was created by Ignite Health and sponsored by Roche Diabetes Care, makers of ACCU-CHEK® products and services."

Ignite Health, an InVentiv Health agency, maintains the site. Fabio Gratton, chief experience officer at Ignite Health, said:
"Few argue that social media has transformed how patients and their caregivers share healthcare information and find support. But the sheer volume of content can be overwhelming. 
"So we asked ourselves how we could best help the diabetes community find and engage in the most timely, relevant and important conversations. The result is a simple, intuitive, compelling and ultimately self-sustaining diabetes social media community.” Diabetes Nest aggregates, sorts and ranks tweets from a curated list of diabetes experts" (read more here: "Roche Sponsors Diabetes Nest Twitter-Based Social Media Site").
All five of those "diabetes experts" are long-time patient bloggers who are "compensated for their time, effort and invaluable guidance." Caretakers include:
  • Amy Tenderich (Diabetes Mine blogger)
  • Gina Capone ("gina - your diabetes BFF" blogger)
  • Kerri Sparling ("six until me" blogger)
  • George Simmons (co-host of DSMA Live on BlogTalkRadio)
  • Scott K. Johnson (co-host of DSMA Live on BlogTalkRadio and blogger at Scott's Diabetes)
Roche "has no control or influence over the content or frequency of the Caretakers' tweets."

Roche Diabetes Care has long been wining and dining diabetes bloggers at yearly "Roche Social Media Summits" held in nice places like resorts in Orlando, Florida. When I learned of the first summit held in 2010, I blogged that "Some Social Media Patient Opinion Leaders Want to be Paid Pharma Professionals." Diabetes Nest is, to my knowledge, the first such time that bloggers have been paid to be "consumer opinion leaders" in a manner similar to how pharma often pays physicians to be "key opinion leaders."

At a patient panel discussion during a 2010 conference, Allison Blass (Patient Blogger, Diabetes Activist, Lemonade Life), said "You need to pay some one's full time salary," referring to the desire of some pharma companies to interact with patients in online communities. "The only way to sustain growth and involvement in a [online] community," said Allison, "is to have someone who actually does it [manage social media interactions with patients] as their job... to become the person who is known and loved by the community."

Not that there is anything wrong with being compensated for your time, but pharmaceutical companies have to be careful how they provide compensation. In the case of Diabetes Nest, Roche probably supplies an "unrestricted grant," which is supposed to specify that the grantor (Roche) has no control over the content created by the grantee. The "grantee" in this case is probably Ignite Health, which owns Diabetes Nest (see NOTE below). Ignite Health is an advertising agency that works with pharmaceutical companies.
NOTE: Doing some WHOIS snooping, I learn that the domain is registered to "TWTCLK" and the administrative contact is Fabio Gratton, both located at the same address in San Clemente, CA. 
A pharmaceutical company providing unrestricted grants or other funds to an advertising agency in support of a patient site related to a product line is a bit controversial, IMHO, especially if there intends to be a "Chinese" wall between the funding and advertising interests. This kind of thing got pharma companies into trouble with the likes of Senator Grassley when "unrestricted grants" were provided to ad agencies to run independent accredited CME programs for physicians. ACCME, which accredits CME, now requires that CME providers to be independent of ad agencies to avoid conflicts of interest.

Disclosure: Fabio Gratton is a friend of mine and a very nice guy who deserves a lot of credit for his high quality, ethical work with pharmaceutical clients. He has been a frequent guest on my BlogTalk Radio show (eg, listen to "Facebook Timelines for Brands: The Implications for Pharma Companies"). He is not a client of mine, but he could be in the future. Knowing Fabio, I am sure he would welcome a discussion of "conflict of interest" in pharma-sponsored social media. The timing of this post may be a problem for him as he and his wife are expecting their first child any day. He must be very busy. Any way, I hope some day I get to visit him in San Clemente! 

1 comment:

  1. Diabetes is hard enough to deal with in everyday life. Unfortunately, this disease opens the door for many other serious conditions.


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